BREASTFEEDING AND ITS MANY BENEFITS
August is National Breastfeeding Month. It is a time to recognize the miraculous ability to create life-sustaining nutrition for our young. The month is dedicated to advancing the nation’s health by working together to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. But why is breastfeeding so important? Continue reading to learn about the many benefits breastfeeding has on both the baby and the nursing mother.
BENEFITS TO BABY
On the outside, breastfeeding may seem like just another way to keep a baby fed, but a deeper look uncovers many more benefits. Did you know that breastmilk evolves to meet the baby’s nutritional needs? From colostrum – the first milk produced by a new mother’s mammary glands – to transitional and mature milk, this “liquid gold” is ever-evolving to ensure the child receives the ideal amount of nutrients, antibodies, and vitamins. Breastfed babies tend to boast:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less diarrhea, constipation, gastroenteritis, gastroesophageal reflux, and preterm necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)
- Fewer colds and respiratory illnesses like pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and whooping cough
- Fewer ear infections, especially those that damage hearing
- Fewer case of bacterial meningitis
- Better vision and less retinopathy of prematurity
- Lower rates of infant mortality
- Lower rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Less illness overall and less hospitalization
- Parents have up to six times less absenteeism from work
BENEFITS TO CHILDREN, TEENS, AND ADULTS
The perks of breastfeeding don’t stop with babies. Continued benefits have been proven in children who are breastfed including:
- Fewer instances of allergies, eczema, and asthma
- Fewer childhood cancers, including leukemia and lymphomas
- Lower risk of type I and II diabetes
- Fewer instances of Crohn’s disease and colitis
- Lower rates of respiratory illness
- Fewer speech and orthodontic problems
- Fewer cavities
- Less likelihood of becoming obese later in childhood
- Improved brain maturation
- Greater immunity to infection
- Less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- Less likely to develop heart disease in adulthood
- Lower risk of multiple sclerosis
- Lower rates of pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer
BENEFITS TO MOTHER
With all the hard work of producing milk and feeding the baby that falls on the mother, it is nice to know there are benefits of breastfeeding for the mother too. Some of those benefits are:
- Promotes faster weight loss after birth, burning about 500 extra calories a day to build and maintain a milk supply.
- Stimulates the uterus to contract and return to normal size.
- Less postpartum bleeding
- Fewer urinary tract infections
- Less chance of anemia
- Less risk of postpartum depression and more positive mood
- Lower risk of breast cancer
- Lower risk of ovarian cancer
- Lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- Less endometriosis
- Less osteoporosis with age
- Less diabetes
- Less hypertension decreases blood pressure
- Less cardiovascular disease
- Breastfeeding produces the naturally soothing hormones oxytocin and prolactin that promote stress reduction and positive feelings in the nursing mother.
- Increased confidence and self-esteem
- Increased calmness. Breastfed babies cry less overall and have fewer incidences of childhood illness. Breastfeeding can support the wellness of body, mind, and spirit for the whole family.
- Breastfeeding makes travel easier. Breast milk is always clean and the right temperature.
- Physical/emotional bonding between mother and child is increased. Breastfeeding promotes more skin-to-skin contact, more holding and stroking. Many feel that affectionate bonding during the first years of life help reduce social and behavioral problems in both children and adults.
- Breastfeeding mothers learn to read their infant’s cues and babies learn to trust caregivers. This helps shape the infant’s early behavior.
FED IS BEST
It’s clear to see that breastfeeding has countless advantages, but it is important to recognize that many women struggle with breastfeeding. No matter how much effort someone may put in, sometimes nature has other plans. Thankfully there are many great nutritional support options available today for families who may choose or may be unable to breastfeed. At the end of the day, a fed baby is a happy baby.